Australia may have been disappointed not to realise their goal of winning Rugby World Cup 2011, but scrum half Will Genia believes the experiences in New Zealand will prove a great benefit to a youthful Wallabies outfit in the years to come.
Speaking to Total Rugby Radio ahead of Australia’s match with the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday, Genia gave an honest reflection of their World Cup campaign and the lessons he learned from his first taste of rugby’s showpiece tournament.
“It is obviously a tough one to look back on. Disappointing in a sense that we didn’t win the competition but I think as a young group moving forward, finishing third and gaining valuable experience for the future, it will benefit us greatly,” admitted Genia.
“I think we obviously had to adapt pretty quickly after we lost against Ireland especially, I mean it then became do or die pretty much every game, earlier in the competition than we would have liked.
“Obviously in hindsight it is easy to say that the way we adapted it wasn’t what we wanted in the sense that we didn’t get the result, but I think for us the competition came down to lack of execution in some places.
“I think the biggest thing I learnt was probably you have got to stick to your guns and play how you naturally play and normally play and take away all the pressure [of it being a Rugby World Cup].
Exuberant and carefree
“You can see that in the way the All Blacks played that competition, they stuck to their guns and played how they had played all year, attacking rugby. They didn’t shift their focus to kicking and whatnot, they stayed true to the way they wanted to play the game.”
Despite the disappointment of finishing third, Genia is relishing the opportunity to play in such a youthful side, with more than half of Australia’s RWC 2011 squad aged 25 or under, many of them having followed the IRB Junior World Championship pathway.
“It was great; having the young guys in the group obviously you get a lot of exuberance, a lot of carefree sort of approaches for the game,” explained Genia, who already has 33 caps to his name despite not turning 24 until January.
“I think that’s the way we play best, when we just go out there and enjoy our footy and play and it is just great to be a part of a side that wants to work hard for each other and that is very much the feeling in the group. It was the feeling in the group during the World Cup and obviously being on tour now it is very much the way it feels now as well.
“Absolutely, [the Junior World Championship is doing its job]. I think it is a great competition and definitely a pathway that sets people in the right direction. I was fortunate enough to play in it, Quade was, David Pocock was, Benny Tapuai has been given the opportunity to tour now, he was a part of the competition [with us in 2008].
Pocock: An inspiration
“It gives you the experience at international level for your age group and I guess exposes you to the pressures of professional rugby in a sense at that age group level, you know being in camp, having to train and do that for a living for that period of time that you are in competition. I think it is great and you really enjoy it too.”
Genia played in the inaugural Junior World Championship in 2008 alongside his now Wallaby teammates David Pocock, Quade Cooper, Ben McCalman, Rob Simmons, Rob Horne and uncapped tourist Ben Tapuai, helping Australia finish fifth in Wales.
Pocock was Australian Under 20 captain that year and Genia is under no illusions as to the importance of the flanker, shortlisted for IRB Player of the Year the last two years and named captain for the Barbarians match, to the Wallaby cause.
“He is great to play with. He is one of those guys that when he is on the field you just feel as though things are safe and things are going to happen and go well,” admitted Genia, who captained Australia for the first time himself against the USA Eagles in the pool stages of RWC 2011.
“He just does his job so well and he is an inspiration to other guys around the field, when you see David working hard it makes you want to do your job even better for the group.”
Ending on a high
That job is to try and end the year on a high with victories over the Barbarians and then Wales next weekend in a repeat of the Bronze Final last month, but Genia is not underestimating the challenge of either opponent.
“[We will approach it] definitely with a Test match intensity. The Barbarians have knocked off the Springboks and the All Blacks in the last couple of years and we won’t want to be another side that they knock off.
“Having been fortunate enough to play with them, they take pride in it and they definitely go out there to play well and to win. We don’t want to be a side that loses to them and we have prepared very, very well in camp leading into this tour.
“I think it will be a very, very tough game [then against Wales]. Obviously Shane Williams has said it’s his last game for Wales so that being in the Millennium Stadium will make it all the more harder, and they will look to get one back on us from having beaten them in the World Cup third and fourth play-off.
"It will be a very, very tough match and I think if we can do well it will be a good way to finish the year."
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